Thousands of employers could be banned from hiring migrant workers for certain jobs within weeks, legal experts have warned.
From this autumn, organisations wishing to hire foreign staff covered by tiers two and five of the new points-based system must have been approved as sponsors.
But very few organisations have applied to become sponsors since the system was established in February, prompting fears of a huge bottleneck in applications later this year.
Sarah Buttler, a partner at law firm Sarah Buttler Associates (SBA), said this could mean delays in processing and gaps in the employment of migrant workers.
The guidance booklet for applying to be a sponsor is 71-pages long, and all applicants will be visited by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to ensure they are capable of making the necessary checks on migrant workers.
Speaking to Personnel Today, Buttler said: “Between now and November there will be a rush for employers to apply and get the UKBA to assess them.
“Employers must prepare now to apply. They should make sure they are confident that managers know they must follow the right checks for employing migrant workers.”
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development economic adviser John Philpott said employers may not be applying because they were waiting for the Home Office to publish details of what occupations were considered in shortage.
Under the new rules, employers recruiting from outside the European Economic Area must be able to show the job could not have been filled from the existing resident labour market.
A UKBA spokesperson said: “Staff will be in place to handle applications quickly and securely so that sponsors can issue certificates from day one.”
In January, the CBI complained that under the sponsorship system, it would cost firms wishing to hire just one migrant worker £1,170 – up from £200 at present.